On Aug. 8, ICE announced the arrests of “52 gang members and associates and 28 other criminals” in a four-day operation targeting “violent street gangs” across Massachusetts. Of the total 80 people arrested, 55 are legal permanent residents “who may be removable from the US based upon their criminal history,” according to ICE; the others included 14 people who were residing in the US without permission from the federal government, two who had failed to comply with deportation orders, and three who had reentered the US after having been deported. “ICE agents also assisted in the arrest of six other individuals on state criminal violations who were encountered during the gang operation,” according to the agency’s news release. The arrested immigrants were nationals of Barbados, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Trinidad and Vietnam. All had criminal records.
The raids, part of ICE’s “Operation Community Shield” anti-gang initiative, were conducted in partnership with the police departments of Attleboro, Berkley, Boston, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Dartmouth, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Randolph, Revere, Rockland, Salem, Somerville, Stoughton, Taunton and Worcester; the sheriff’s departments of Bristol, Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties; the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance; the Office of the Massachusetts State Auditor; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the US Attorney’s Office; and the Department of State Office of Diplomatic Security. (ICE news release, Aug. 8)
On Aug. 4 and 5 in Lowell, about 30 miles northwest of Boston, ICE arrested 12 Southeast Asian immigrants between the ages of 25 and 36. (Lowell Sun, Aug. 6) They were picked up on federal warrants for administrative immigration violations, ICE spokesperson Paula Grenier said. From Lowell’s Cambodian community, one of the largest in the US, 187 people have been deported since 2002; 15 more were expected to be deported on Aug. 14.
Relatives of those detained in Lowell joined community members in protesting the arrests at an Aug. 8 rally sponsored by Deported Diaspora and other community groups at Clemente Park in the Lower Highlands neighborhood of Lowell. More than 160 people attended the rally in the rain and signed a petition calling for elected officials and local authorities to investigate the sweeps, which they say have been heavy-handed and overly broad. Activists handed out fliers to inform people of their rights.
Linda Pream spoke at the rally about her boyfriend, Sokon Cheurem, who was among those arrested. Pream described Cheurem as a wonderful father to his six-year-old daughter, Josselin, who is dependent on him for support, including health and dental care. “His entire life, actually his entire being is revolved around his little girl,” said Pream.
Families are having trouble getting in touch with those arrested, said Gregg Croteau of the United Teen Equality Center. In a press release, the group Deported Diaspora said most of the detainees seem to have been transferred out of state within 24 hours of their arrests. Croteau said his group is upset about the way ICE picked up people without considering their individual circumstances. He spoke in support of Song Sao, who was arrested seven years ago on an assault and battery charge but was given probation and never served time in jail. Croteau said Sao has been working with community groups. “According to his many friends and family members, he has completely turned his life around in a very positive and uplifting way,” said Croteau.
Croteau also expressed concern that the arrests will fuel distrust of law enforcement in the Cambodian community. The Lowell Police Department emphasized that the arrests were an ICE initiative and that its officers took part only as a safety precaution. “The Lowell Police Department has been committed to strong community partnerships, particularly with the Southeast Asian community,” said acting Deputy Police Superintendent Arthur Ryan. (Lowell Sun, Aug. 9; Boston Globe, Aug. 9; Deported Diaspora Press Release, Aug. 8)
On Aug. 8 at Vida Real Church in Somerville, just northwest of Boston, several dozen residents took part in a rally and press conference against the raids. On Aug. 5 in Somerville, ICE agents stopped people at the Sullivan Square transit station and at a donut shop on Broadway, sowing terror in the community. Somerville police chief Anthony Holloway said ICE agents arrested one Somerville resident. At the Aug. 8 event, organized by the Somerville-based group Centro Presente, pastor Luis Morales said city officials are not giving the community adequate information about ICE activities. (BG, Aug. 9; Somerville News, Aug. 15)
On Aug. 13, more than 150 people from immigrant rights organizations, labor unions, religious congregations and other groups rallied at Boston’s City Hall Plaza to protest the raids and the collaboration between local police and ICE, and to demand fair immigration policies. The rally was sponsored by groups including Jobs with Justice and Centro Presente. (Open Media Boston, Aug. 15; Boston Indymedia, Aug. 14)
From Immigration News Briefs, Aug. 16
See our last post on the politics of immigration.